Organised by payments giant SWIFT, Sibos is the world’s premier banking conference attracting more than 8,000 executives, decision makers and thought leaders eager to get the lowdown on the next big challenges and opportunities in financial services.
This year, the movable feast was held in London – a fitting location given that the UK has been named a world FinTech leader by a government-backed Tech Nation report, and this year London overtook New York as a global hub having attracted the largest number of FinTech deals in the world. A report by Innovate Finance and London & Partners notes the UK has seen record investment in FinTech within the first eight months of 2019, with $2.29bn invested across 142 deals.
A new era
Much of the growth and innovation of the past few years has been driven by an evolving customer base. Today’s customer expects to get what they want when they want it from their bank, and expects paying for products and services to be as seamless as the rest of their digital lifestyle.
Not surprisingly then, ‘Generation Z’ was the word on many lips at SIBOS. The upcoming cohort of 13-22 year olds will transform finance even further through increasing demands. Yet Gen Z was spoken about in some discussions – notably Banking Perspectives: Understanding the next generation of customers – almost as an alien lifeform.
In the Banking Perspectives panel, authors Chloe Combi and Julia Hobsbawm were joined by speakers from Barclays and Innovate Finance to discuss how banks can engage the next generation in a meaningful way – but in order to do so, they must understand the demographic. It was noted that even as expectations – like being able to take out a mortgage at 21 – have changed among Gen Z, the overall ambition – to be financially secure, independent, and make plans for the future – has remained the same. Banks must now tailor their services to meet these needs for a new generation who, yes, often don’t want to speak to someone on the phone.
How to scale responsibly
As Financial Services consumers become ever more autonomous and expect to be able to glean enough information to make their own decisions it will be vital for banks and FinTechs to keep up with the evolving expectations of this generation. Certainly, many incumbents have recognised the need to partner with technology companies and innovative startups to avoid being left in the dust. But some speakers warned that such rapid growth must be tempered with a sense of responsibility.
AI, automation and Big Data have started to transform every organisation – making managing finances easier for business and consumer alike. But even as technology improves financial services it continues to pose ethical questions. Today AI can glean enough information from data to decide whether someone in a developing country can get their first bank account – but should this kind of data be used in this way?
This was the question posed by Ayesha Khanna, CEO of ADDO AI, on the Innotribe stage as she discussed the different ways AI can be used to conduct credit checks in emerging markets. As impressive as it is to be able to do so, she pointed out, is enabling banks to check a potential client’s social media accounts a fair way to decide if they are responsible with their finances? As technology develops rapidly, getting overexcited at the expense of ethics was warned against by Khanna and many others at SIBOS.
The FinTech Alliance community was out in force, with Thought Machine, Temenos, Invest NI, DIT and OakNorth’s AI arm all exhibiting stands, and many more of our community hub attending the conference. Announcements were also made during the week – including OakNorth’s partnership with Shieldpay and London gaining top spot for green finance.
In an increasingly virtual world, FinTechs, corporations and enterprises alike chose to attend Sibos 2019 not only to meet and network in person – but also to glean knowledge and insight into some of the biggest issues that face banking today. Sibos aired these issues while also showcasing the very best of the UK’s finance sector – especially the enthusiasm to collaborate and share once closely guarded ideas. The strength of the FinTech community in London and beyond was encapsulated within the four-day event, and the efforts of the UK government to provide a platform for FinTech to flourish is clearly paying off.